Fertilizer, fuel and feed costs for Central Florida farmers skyrocket, as do grocery prices

The price of corn to feed the thousands of chickens at Dale Volkert’s Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee doubled from $4 or $4.50 a bushel a year ago to $8 or $9 in May.

That’s just one of the expenses, along with higher fuel prices and other production needs, that are weighing down Central Florida farmers at the same time customers are feeling the impact of the price tag at the grocery store. .

Farmers say they are not making higher profits despite rising prices in store aisles.

“The problem is that everything goes on a truck somewhere, whether it’s grain or plastic coming into Florida or egg cartons,” said Volkert, who raises birds for both their eggs and meat. “It is not the farmer. It’s everything in between.”

The cost of labor, feed, fuel and fertilizer has increased for farmers, said James Yarborough, UF/IFAS Extension livestock and natural resources agent in Orange and Seminole counties.

Those higher bills come as groceries rose 10.8% in the year to April, according to the Consumer Price Index. That was the biggest jump in 12 months since November 1979-80.

Meat, poultry, fish and eggs rose 14.3%, the biggest annual rise since the year ending May 1979.

Lake Meadow Naturals, which sells through its farm store and also to restaurants, has only increased its prices by 6%, Volkert estimated. He said he’s just trying to cover his higher costs.

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“We’re trying to help people,” Volkert said.

In Osceola County, costs also rose at Doc Partin Ranch. Like most Florida beef cattle producers, the ranch south of St. Cloud sells calves to ranches in other states.

Ricky Booth, who owns the ranch with his family and is also a member of the Osceola County Commission, said the amount he receives for his cattle has stagnated in recent years.

“When you get out of Florida, you have a long way to go before you get to that finished product,” Booth said. “Having this rapid acceleration in inflation without any acceleration in the price of our product is really putting us in a bind.”

One increase ranchers face is fertilizer, and Yarborough said its cost has risen 75% to 100% over the last year.

“In order to feed our cattle, we have to feed our pastures,” Yarborough said.

Or as Booth put it: “Although we are ranchers, we are also essentially grass farmers.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and resulting trade disruptions are among the causes of higher fertilizer costs, with CNBC reporting in March that Russia produces about 14% of global fertilizer exports.

Yarborough said rising costs for farmers are a concern, especially for small growers.

“Our Florida ranchers are determined to help produce a food product for the nation,” he said. “They just hope that things will change, but they are really stalwart in their destiny and their goal.”

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And there’s another concern at Volkert’s chicken farm.

Lake Meadow Naturals is taking precautions to protect its poultry from bird flu, including restricting non-farm workers from visiting the animals, changing clothing between flocks and letting chickens out less for that they do not contract the virus from migratory birds.

“Bird flu, of course, scares us a lot,” said Volkert, who hasn’t had a case on his farm.

The US Department of Agriculture confirmed that 353 backyard and commercial flocks, totaling about 38 million birds, have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza in 35 states as of Tuesday. Florida was not listed as one of those states, but it has had cases among wild birds.

Back at Doc Partin Ranch, although Booth’s business has been buoyed by demand for beef, he worries it will decline if grocery store prices continue to rise.

“My biggest fear is that prices [serán] high and middle-class and working-class families won’t be able to buy beef,” Booth said. “That comes down to us.”

* This story was published in the Orlando Sentinel by journalist Joe Mario Pedersen. The translation was carried out by the journalist Ginayra Alvarado Villegas. You can contact her at [email protected]

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